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How long to know the notes/piano?

(23 Posts)
Strictlyison Mon 22-Jun-15 16:47:54

I can't read music neither can DH, but our two boys are very keen on leaning instruments. DS2 started piano lessons before DS1, about a year ago, and has passed his prep test and is learning grade 1. DS1 is doing prep this Friday. They can read music ok, both clef, but not sight reading as such. They still have to work some of the notes out. They are 8 and 9 years old.

My MIL is quite pushy that by now they should know all their notes and where they are on the keyboard, I am more of the opinion that they are progressing well and with confidence, and the sight reading will progress as they learn. So from your experience, how long does it take for children to integrate all the notes and 'know' them completely?

Christelle2207 Mon 22-Jun-15 16:53:04

Not sure what is meant by "know all their notes".
Sounds like they are making good progress to me.

Strictlyison Mon 22-Jun-15 16:57:39

I mean looking at the (treble or base) clef and being able to name all the notes (those above and below the lines) and identify them instantly and correctly on the keyboard without having to 'work them out' with some acronym. Does that make sense?

Christelle2207 Mon 22-Jun-15 17:04:31

Ok. That comes with time tbh.

Christelle2207 Mon 22-Jun-15 17:05:23

Guessing your mil is not a pianist?!wink

howabout Mon 22-Jun-15 17:06:25

Very much depends on the child and how they learn.
My dds started learning aged 7 and 8. They are now grade 6 and 5 and aged 14 and 12.
One of them has always just known her notes and sight reads but tends to be a bit lazy about perfecting things.
The other one seems to work things out very methodically at the start of learning a piece and then ends up having memorised it quite quickly because she always struggled with reading music.
I don't think one style is necessarily better than another and I would go with your approach of encouraging their confidence and enjoyment.
Mine should practise their scales more.

Fleurdelise Mon 22-Jun-15 17:14:04

Sight reading is also about knowing note intervals rather than all the note names. As in space to space and line to line, up/down.

My dd will be doing piano for two years in September, she did grade 1 in March and she knows the notes by using her mnemonics but when she does sight reading is mostly by knowing which way the music goes, up or down and how many notes. So space to line is one note up/down, space to space is two and so on.

ShellingPeasAgain Mon 22-Jun-15 17:43:47

Like Fleurdelise says they should be sight reading by intervals not by mnemonics or rhymes. The basis of good sight reading (in so far as exams go) is that they have a good sense of pulse and rhythm and then can work out their starting notes and read the distances between the notes from then on in.

In my experience, having taught for 30+ years, fluent ability to read music doesn't really happen before grade 2-3. Before that it tends to be muscle memory and repetition which enables students play well. I've had transfer students at grade 3-4 level who struggle to read accurately because they have good memories and haven't bothered to read the music.

Best thing to do to improve sight reading is to get easier music (Piano Adventures does some good sight reading books which correlate with their tutor books) and just play through it. The more you practice a skill the easier it becomes.

Mistigri Mon 22-Jun-15 18:31:49

This year DD, thanks to a crash course in formal theory and note-reading at her French music school, has gone from being a bit rubbish at reading music, to instantaneous and impeccable note recognition on all the clefs.

It's made zero difference to her sight reading which remains rubbish on piano (too much playing by ear) but good in guitar and sax.

Make of that what you will ....

Ionone Mon 22-Jun-15 18:41:14

DD has been learning piano in a group lesson for two terms (she is 8, in Y3). I would say she knows most of the notes instantly on the stave and occasionally has to stop and work one out when sight reading. I don't think she is anywhere near grade 1 standard! On the violin, which she's been learning for three terms in an individual lesson she is much more consistent and only occasionally makes a mistake. I would say she is approaching grade 1 standard in violin (if she makes a mistake, it will be line to line or space to space and she will self-correct). She practices both instruments daily and enjoys them both. TBH, I would not worry about where they 'should' be but concentrate on them enjoying it and doing regular practice. Confidence and enjoyment is the most important thing as a PP said.

1805 Mon 22-Jun-15 19:10:17

I find the Dozen a Day series of books helps pupils to recognise patterns of notes which in turn helps with sight reading.

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen Mon 22-Jun-15 19:33:20

I've been learning for nearly 3 years and still need to improve my sight readingblushgrin

I have an app on my phone like flash cards that I find really useful.

Sounds like they are making really good progress OPsmile

bangbangprettypretty Mon 22-Jun-15 19:45:05

Gosh reading this I feel quite blush

I played the piano since the age of six and had weekly lessons until I was 18 and I still had to work out every note, never became able to sight read despite getting a B in GCSE music! I never made the connection between note spaces - should've done more grades and less Bacharach grin

Ferguson Mon 22-Jun-15 20:09:05

This is the mistake EVERYONE makes when learning piano:

You DO NOT NEED TO NAME the notes -

But your FINGERS need to know how to go the correct keys!!

Don't waste valuable time with the names, but train your FINGERS (kinaesthetic learning) to go straight to the keys you want to play.

In Theory study and exams you WILL need note names, but to learn to play, you do not.

Ionone Mon 22-Jun-15 20:25:33

Um, you do actually need to be able to name the notes, unless you want to be stuck at a low level forever. It's quite important by the time you get to grade 5 theory (though that is a while off and it will all probably be fine by then, if they even continue that far). Plus, kinaesthetic memory is much less useful for the piano than for something like violin as your hands could be in several different positions for the same notes even as a beginner, unlike many other instruments. I don't think it's wrong to be aiming at knowing both where to find that note and its name, just that it might not come immediately (which is OK). Not to be aiming at that is lazy and bad musicianship.

whatsthatcomingoverthehill Mon 22-Jun-15 22:31:18

I'm rubbish at instantly knowing what name the note is from the music, but I know exactly what key it is (or on viola where my fingers need to be on the string). I can work it out but that requires thinking about it, and generally you don't want to put another process into it. i.e. it is quicker and more instinctive to see the note on the music and know which key it is, rather than: see the note; think 'ah that's middle C'; remember which key middle C is.

JulieMichelleRobinson Mon 22-Jun-15 22:59:56

I teach beginners to read by it goes up/down by step/jump (and then fourths and fifths). They usually know the notes on the piano but have to work them out on the stave at the start of the piece, kwim? It depends on their literacy level. My youngest students sightread fluently because we don't worry about which note it is, just how to get there (next finger? Skip a finger?). The older ones hesitate and sightread less fluently because they worry whether it's a D or an E.

In real life, I hardly ever worry about what note it is, though I could tell you in any of seven clefs. Mezzo soprano clef might take a second to work out, though, unless I'd just played it. For this reason, I can play organ music in a combination of C clefs and transpose readily. I have perfect pitch so I find it less confusing to actually transpose than to press the transpose button on a keyboard!

What kills me, though, is treble clef bits on the viola.

JulieMichelleRobinson Mon 22-Jun-15 23:03:38

Oh, by work out... I use a series that doesn't rely on hand position playing in book 1. So before starting, they have to work out the first note and which finger goes on it. Middle C is not your thumb, and your thumb is not middle c.

howabout Mon 22-Jun-15 23:09:43

I switch between violin and viola playing and I agree treble clef in a viola piece makes your head hurt.

JulieMichelleRobinson Mon 22-Jun-15 23:14:56

Try playing the arpeggione sonata from a cello edition in tenor clef.......!

1805 Tue 23-Jun-15 18:16:36

No one here has suggested that NOT learning the note names is the way to go. What people - including myself - ARE saying is that it is important to teach children to recognise the gap between one note and the next. By learning this, sight reading will be easier.

howabout Tue 23-Jun-15 18:46:03

I also find it helpful to look at the repeating pattern of the piano keys rather than just intervals. Actually my piano left hand knows the bass clef better than I do.

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen Tue 23-Jun-15 18:51:50

Yep, repeating patterns are always good grin

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